Image: Chris Dumm for TTAG

Your eyes don’t deceive you. This AR magwell doesn’t bear the standard of a rampant Colt, the crosshairs and lion of an ArmaLite, or the generic logo of a ‘Your Name Here’ parts-bin AR builder. That’s the FN logo, because this is a new FN-15 carbine . . .

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAG

FN has been making military M16s and M4s for years, so I’m not sure you can quite call the FN-15 an ‘M4gery.’ The FN-15 doesn’t share the M4’s full-auto bolt group or receiver (no surprise there, eh?) and it also sports a chrome-lined, button-broached 1:7″ barrel instead of one of FNH’s legendary cold hammer-forged barrels.

It comes with all the bits you expect on an upper entry-level flattop AR with a $1000 street price, and it tips the scales at seven pounds empty. The price includes one 30-round magazine (except in Colorado or NY, of course) and a cable lock which you will immediately throw away.

It also includes a detachable carrying handle with A2 rear sights, which I’ve never actually had on an AR before. To my surprise, I like the dual-aperture rear sight and we’ll probably keep it for most of the practical testing.

FNH sources their own 6-position buttstock, and it comes with a unique reinforced toe. I appreciate this feature, because I once had an off-brand M4 stock fail at the toe while the rifle was slung up in a 3-point sling. The sling swivel fell out and the rifle’s butt headed for the ground while its muzzle headed toward my face. I somehow snatched it out of midair before it lasered me, but I’ve been leery of M4 sling swivels ever since.

But enough about butts in slings. This rifle looks pretty sweet, but I’ll probably hand this review off to Joe Grine since I also just picked up a piston-driven AR pistol (a PWS MK107) for testing.

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80 Responses to Just Arrived From My FFL: FN-15 Carbine

    • I love the classic look of FNH’s crest but hate the recent trend towards silkscreened or colored logo’s like that on guns. What happened to proper roll marks or engraving (besides being too expensive)?

  1. Button rifling… Didn’t DG once say button rifle was the worst of the various ways to put rifling? If so, I’m kind of surprised FN used it.

    (I also think he said CHF was overrated, too, but I’ll leave that to someone who has a clue, i.e. not me.)

    Either way, curious to see how FN’s AR stands up to the Colts and Remingtons. Figure the other mil contractors are the most valid comparisons.

    • No… I’d have to go back and find my previous writing on barrel making, but I’m sure I never said broached barrels were the worst of the lot.

      By far, there are more broach-cut rifling barrels out there in the custom barrel market than any other method, and most of them are very good barrels, especially if you’re paying the extra for lapping and air gauging to very tight specs.

    • I have one of these FN-15 carbines, and its a full auto bolt carrier. Its a superb rifle, and the fit and finish is the best i’ve seen on an AR-15.

      • I agree with Dan. The fit and finish on the FN is wonderful. In fact, it has less racket and clatter between the upper and lower than either of my Daniel Defense (DD) carbines. I have 3 colt LE 6920’s, and they all make more noise than the FN, I like my Colts as well as the next guy, but the truth is the truth. Same comments apply to the DD’s. I am changing the hand guard to a Sampson 12 inch that leaves the FSB in place, Changed the stock to one of the new Hogue’s, and will add a Phase 5 BAD lever, and winter trigger guard, along with a Geissele rapid fire trigger available through Brownell’s. These simple changes will move this firearm way upstream (IMHO). Personally, I believe I could “live” with it paired against any other semi automatic weapon. However, been there done that, not interested in any more! But, if backed in a corner – no hesitation on grabbing this rifle.

  2. Or you could save $300+ and build yourself a PSA rifle with hammer-forged barrel (from FN, ironically enough!), mid-length gas, and Magpul everything.

    Just saying.

    • I agree. I wouldn’t buy this. Not when I can get/build better for less. The FN logo isn’t that valuable to me – Sorry.

    • I honestly don’t know why anyone with a few mechanical skills would buy a mass-produced AR any more. OK, if you’re all thumbs and don’t know a torque wrench from a hammer, go buy a mass-produced AR. Or a tricked-up one.

      From my perspective, the market is positively flooded with parts, and you can find used parts on fleaBay by the dump-truck-full. We’re back to where we were on lower/upper costs before December 2012, and there are more parts makers coming into the market all the time. Absent some legislative push again, I foresee parts prices coming down, not going up.

      In an AR, I tend to over-allocate money to the barrel, BCG and trigger. Everything else? Eh.

      • One word: warranty.

        For my first AR, I ALMOST bought an M&P 15 simply because if one of their guns doesn’t run right, S&W will take care of it. But then I came across a ridiculously good deal on a PSA complete upper and jumped on it. Hopefully it won’t let me down (should be here in a couple weeks!)

        • OK, you got me there. I usually don’t even consider the benefits of a warranty on a gun, but that’s me. I work on lots of used and old guns, where there’s obviously no warranty whatsoever.

          Sorry, I completely forgot about that issue, so you’re right.

      • Same here. Nickel boron BCG, upgraded charging handle, Magpul or Troy BUIS, M4 profile stainless upper in 1:7 and throw Magpul MOE everywhere else.

        Except my 1st and 2nd ARs, which were a SOG Armory Defender and a Ruger SR-556. My 3rd through 7th were all a conglomeration of parts. And they all work once I got them cleaned up and tuned up. No gunsmith needed (except for some consultation here and there).

      • Probably the same reason most people buy a car instead of putting one together from all the available parts. Did you know you can build a Jeep entirely from a catalog? You can over locate money to those special goodies.

      • The costs of proper tools and shipping add up and depending on what you feel your time is worth it’s not likely to save much money. If you can find an upper and lower configured how you want, that’s probably the best way to go IMO. I’ve done both ways and the only I feel I saved money by building is on account of working for a gun store and getting some good discounts.

  3. Would someone please tell me again why the M16 bcg is better than the semi-auto bcg’s that I’ve fired many thousands of rounds through without failure?

    The only bcg failure I’ve ever seen in person is a gas key coming loose. That was on a 20 year old knockoff CAR-15.

      • I’m curious about the picture you linked. Is the new Colt Carrier in the image what they are currently installing on their current production 6900 series carbines and the new 20″ AR-15A4?

        It looks like the body of the carrier doesn’t narrow down in the middle but wouldn’t you want the lower rear portion? If so, I’m concerned about how much of a different it would have on the the function of a rifle during operation. Especially during rapid firing.

        • Drew,

          I’m not certain of a new colt BCG, because I don’t own one. I obtained that picture from here:
          http://www.uzitalk.com/forums/showthread.php?50426-SP1-bolt-carrier

          That said, to my understanding if your rifle is semi-auto (lacking the full auto sear) the back end of the BCG doesn’t matter for it’s operation (semi or full auto – it will only be semi). Only when operating in full auto with a rifle equipped with the sear do you need the filled in portion of the back end of the BCG, as shown in the picture for the M16 BCG. The extra material on the BCG for the M16 is used in conjunction with the sear for select fire operation.

    • Chris: The M16 carrier is slightly heavier which more often than not is a good thing. Near as I can tell that’s pretty much it, though I assume people prefer them because they see SA carriers as pointless and maybe a little insulting. Or they own or are considering a DIAS. Or because many lower quality, poorly regarded manufacturers use SA carriers, so SA carriers have been taken to be a sign of a lower quality rifle.

      That last bit is interesting now that I see Windham Weaponry rifles with M16 carriers and LMTs with SA carriers.

  4. I’m a little confused regarding the button broaching. Button cut rifling to my understanding is far superior to hammer forgings. The most accurate barrels manufactured are cut barrels – not hammer forged. Cut and button cut rifling leaves the barrel with less stress in comparison to hammer forged. After a lap job they are superb… what is the problem?

    Lilja custom barrels are button cut:
    http://www.riflebarrels.com/articles/barrel_making/making_rifle_barrel.htm

    These are top notch precision barrels. Not mass manufactured hammer forgings.

  5. I remember when you could count the various brands of AR15s on one hand, using 2 fingers. Now there are how many dozens of AR15 builders? If this thing had come out in 1990 it would have been a big deal, now its yawn time. It looks positively plebeian compared to a Stag.

  6. a cable lock which you will immediately throw away

    Hold on to your cable locks, boys and girls. The long ones make excellent blackjacks.

  7. I never get anything cool like this in the mail! 😉
    All things aside for $1000 if the trigger is better than the colt or others, then they have a winner. Nothing wrong with it, and it is like the race for mid sized commuter cars. It is cut throat.
    FN just won the military contract as well if I am not mistaken. So we expect them to be upping production to an all time high.

  8. OK, [rifle] barrels again.

    Single point cut (or just “cut”) rifling is produces the best, most accurate barrels. It also allows for rapid changes to the twist rate, groove depth, as well as the number of grooves you want to put in the barrel. You can even do gain twist rifling very easily with cut rifling. People interested in gain twist rifling should read up on the barrels and gunsmithing of Harry M. Pope, a famous gunsmith of 100 years ago. Why are these barrels so accurate? Because the method of rifling doesn’t impart stresses into the barrel, which show up as deviations in the point of impact as the barrel heats up.

    The downside is that it is slow, and it requires skill, something that mass-production gun companies don’t want to pay for any more. Two companies that are well known in the accuracy field (I’m talking benchrest and F-class) for their very accurate barrels are Krieger and Bartlein.

    Broach, or “button” cut rifling is the next type of rifling. A carbide “button” or broach is pulled through the bore after the bore has been drilled, reamed and (possibly) lapped. Then a broach is pulled through the barrel, and the broach has the number of cuts on it, as well as the twist rate. You pull the broach through and it cuts all the grooves at once, twisting as it goes down the bore. This broaching operation imparts stresses into the steel, and no one can deny this with a straight face, because if you’ve ever been next to a broaching machine pulling a rifling button through a barrel, there’s a hell of a “bang!” when that broach exits the barrel. These barrels have to be stress-relieved after rifling to get them to be pretty accurate – and they are.

    Upsides: Faster than single point cut barrels, and therefore cheaper.
    Downsides: Not quite as accurate, but much more accurate than many factory barrels.

    Some of the makers of broached barrels: Pac-Nor, Lilja, Douglas, Hart, etc.

    Most all rifles that I build for sporting shooting (ie, hunting rifles) will have broached barrels. You can get broached barrels in reasonable times these days, whereas cut rifled barrels often have a waiting list. Last I looked, it will take over nine months to get a rifle barrel out of Krieger. Last I knew, Savage broached their barrels.

    Hammer forged, sometimes called “cold hammer forged,” is the way that most large gun companies now make barrels. Remington, Ruger, FN, etc. The equipment is expensive and large.

    The upsides are that it is pud-simple: Put a barrel with an oversized bore onto a mandrel that has the rifling pattern on it, and literally squish the metal down onto the mandrel. Pull the mandrel out, you’re done. It takes almost no time at all, compared to the other two methods.

    Upsides: Fast, cheap (which is all that modern gun companies care about any more), takes little skill in the employee running the machine. You get a smoother bore without lapping compared to the other two methods, because there’s almost no tooling marks left. Broach cutting leaves tooling marks that need to be lapped out. If your mandrel was held to very tight size specs, then your bore will reflect those as well. With the other two methods, you need to air gauge the barrel to see if there were any over/under-sized deviations going down the bore.

    CHF barrels are great for mass-produced guns that aren’t going to be used for high accuracy work. Shooting 3-gun and “tactical” stuff is not “accuracy work.” Most military rifles are 2 minute guns, and have been for a long time. You just can’t crank out the number of barrels needed for today’s mass-produced guns with cut rifling, and maybe not even with broached rifling, so we now have CHF dominance in mass-produced barrels.

    Downsides are the stresses then imparted into the barrel in the cold working of the steel. You can relieve much of this stress out, but the simple fact is, the easiest stresses to remove are the ones you didn’t put into the steel in the first place. As the barrel warms up, these stresses will cause changes in the point of impact, which reflects in larger group sizes.

    Other downsides are the cost of the machine(s), the cost of making the mandrel, the fact that if you want to change anything about the rifling, you’re paying for another mandrel, etc. What you have on the mandrel is what you get in the bore.

    I’ve been around guns a fair bit longer than many here, and I have never heard of CHF barrels, anyone’s CHF barrels, being described as “legendary,” and I seriously doubt such barrels will ever attract anyone investing the time, money and expense to try to replicate them as gunsmiths have invested in figuring out Harry Pope’s barrels. No one I know in the serious accuracy fields of pursuit uses CHF barrels; CHF barrels aren’t made by any of the custom barrel makers in the US that I know of. Most of the custom barrel makers use broached rifling, and the very best (and most expensive, with the longest waiting times) are still cut.

    Last comment on the above rifle: I have no idea why someone would use a broached barrel and then chrome plate it. If you’re going to decrease the accuracy potential of a barrel by chrome plating it, then why start with a higher quality barrel in the first place? That’s really, really odd to me.

    • My 90s era Bushy has a chromed broached barrel, its still pretty accurate. Its a fair tradeoff since the chroming makes it easier to clean and corrosion resistant.

      • In a military arm, chrome lining makes absolute sense. It is a very good addition to a bore that will be used in harsh environments and hard use, and military use is hard use.

        For the civilian gun owner who takes care of his guns, chrome lining makes little sense, and it can cost you more down the road. Let’s say you have a chrome-lined barrel that you shoot for thousands upon thousands of rounds. You now need it re-crowned (or set back by a turn). Your gunsmith is going to likely be cursing that chrome lining, as it will require carbide tooling to deal with it. Most chamber reamers gunsmiths have in their inventories will be HSS. As a result of these bore linings, I now see Dave Kiff recommending to use gunsmiths to simply step up and buy carbide tooling for the reamers. “It’s only $40 more…” is his justification.

        Yea, well, $40 times umpteen reamers… it adds up.

        • I agree with your assessments 100%, however you questioned why FN would chrome a broached barrel on a military grade rifle. The simple answer, its what the military does to military rifles. Chromed barrels should last the life of the owner and a few more down the road.

        • Dyspeptic,

          Does a nitride process make for as much annoyance in the re crown process? Does nitride apply to the bore itself or just the outside of the barrel?

          I’m looking at things from POF and they appear to be a decent buy in .308 but mainly because pricing the parts and seeing these rifles about $500-1000 below MSRP seems like for what they’re offering I may well come over budget attempting to build comparably. What do you think?

        • Nitriding leaves a surface on the steel that’s harder than the hinges on the doors to Hell.

          It’s not really a coating process like chrome, it’s a surface hardening process. The result is a surface on the steel or stainless steel that is absurdly hard, yet very smooth and thin.

          I’d have to inquire whether even conventional carbide tooling could survive being used on a nitrided piece of steel. It isn’t something I’ve run into on a gun, but I’m familiar with the salt bath nitriding process as a surface hardening process.

    • Hmmm–consumer demand because of the belief that chrome lined barrels will resist erosion (and corrosive ammo) better than standard barrels?

      • Maybe. How much corrosive 5.56 ammo is out there? Not much that I know of. If you’re buying a chrome-lined barrel so you can shoot the cheapest crap ammo you can find, what was the point of buying a new rifle in the first place?

    • Thank you DG, as always I appreciate the information. That went a long way to explaining any questions I had about the barrel.

    • I have a follow up question. If broaching is more expensive than CHF and not every barrel is hammer forged than how are the ‘cheaper’ barrels rifled? I’m mainly talking about the PSA chrome-moly vanadium and like manufacturers. CMMG and other parts dealers offer non-CHF barrels at a lower price.

      • They’re probably broached, but not lapped, and they’re not air-gauged.

        The custom barrel makers who are making very nice broach-rifled barrels are doing a bunch of things to insure the quality of the barrels. Lapping takes time by someone with skills, and air gauging likewise. You don’t need to lap or gauge a barrel if the customer doesn’t want to pay for those operations, and lots of gun buyers want “as cheap as possible” and no other criterion is applied.

        I have an AR-15 barrel that was obviously broach-cut, and through a bore scope, it looks like someone sent tiny beavers down the bore to do the rifling. It’s horribly rough. I think it cost me $90. It will shoot 2 minute groups, but it copper fouls so quickly that I’m going to replace it. I think the entire box of parts to slap that AR together cost me less than $600.

        • Thank you. Now, one more question, if you don’t mind? Let’s say I had several AR rifles with different barrels. One is advertised as a 4150 heavy barrel, another is a hammer forged CMV and the third is a non-hammer forged CMV. And both of the CMVs are A2 profiled. For the average shooter are there any real differences in the material and quality?

          I understand rifling plays a big role in accuracy but what about material?

        • It will shoot 2 minute groups, but it copper fouls so quickly that I’m going to replace it.

          Why don’t you hand lap it? Do you think you’ll push it over bore diameter?

          I use KG2 bore polish for some of my extremely rough milsurps. There are some finer lapping compounds than KG2 that would probably do the trick.

        • Drew: Many accuracy shooters have gone to 416 stainless steel barrels. There’s really no difference between stainless and CMV for accuracy, it’s now about durability and cleaning issues. Stainless and Chro-moly steel are both about the same for stiffness (Young’s modulus or modulus of elasticity). Stainless barrels now appear to have a longer life (in terms of number of rounds).

          Anon: Because the barrel in question also fails the straightness gage pin. There’s no point in putting any time or money into it; it’s a POS that shoots far better than it should.

        • Again, thank you. When I was researching MSRs a few years ago there were several different barrel options out there and I had a hard time figuring out the differences.

          From the sounds of things I’m unlikely to ever wear out a 4150 or CMV barrel (given the amount of shooting I do) and I’ll likely never need a precision rifle (I’m not skilled enough for competitions) so I guess I made the right choice with PSA.

    • Dispeptic Gunsmith:
      “I have no idea why someone would use a broached barrel and then chrome plate it. If you’re going to decrease the accuracy potential of a barrel by chrome plating it, then why start with a higher quality barrel in the first place?”

      I agree. The chrome plating process decreases accuracy. Makes the bore great for corrosion resistance and easy to clean, but the thickness of the plating through the bore is not exact. If you want something really accurate and corrosion resistant – use a better stainless steel. If you are going to chrome plate it – use CHF.

  9. Another late entry into the market. It’s inclear what value added or benefit there is with this one. What real discriminants are brought to market? The BCG and rifling? For $1K? When one can get better for about that price point?

  10. Wha? They are just using their $199 FN barrels instead of their $250 CHF bbls? Weird choice, the
    CHF bbls would sell more, being that CHF is all the rrage right now.
    I wouldnt spend 1000 on it though, I can build a much better AR for the price, although the same goes with Colts, wouldnt buy one of them either.
    For 1000 I can have a NiB bcg, quality trigger and nice furniture, and a decent free floated rail.

  11. You forgot kalifornia and CT and Maryland and HI for states with no good mags. And for that fact you cant have that rifle also in all the mentioned states we both said.

    PS FN made m-16A2 and M-16A4s for years only later this year will they start the M-4 contract they won last summer by the Army. So M-4s are new to FN. But AR building isn’t.

    Looks like a fun carbine to play with. Only downside I wish they make a true 14.5 inch M-4 barrel with a stretched A2 flash hider fixed on.

    • That’s another question I had–why the rage for 14.5 ” barrels vs 16″ barrels? The .223, I was reading the other day, reaches max velocity out of a 20″ barrel. Just so that you can have the closest thing to a SBR without having to pay $200 and deal with the ATF? [Then again, if I had my druthers, I’d get a medium profile, target crowned 18-20″ SS or melonite barrel in 1/8 twist and a Wylde chamber, but that’s just me. Maybe when my ship comes in.]

  12. I don’t care for that laser engraving logo either. The original logo should be good enough. The thing is it’s only engraved on the finish not into the metal. It can easily be sand blasted off and refinished.

  13. Okay does anyone have an image of the left side of the receiver? I did a search and could only find a couple but those were early pictures from last year but concrpts change begore they are finally put on the market. Original has no logo on the mag well just FN-15, Multi, and serial number. Real clean. I hope it still looks the same. Hey Chris Dunn could you please post some pictures of the left side?

  14. Yawn. Gun show yesterday, SW MP15 Sport $600 or like another poster above said, log on and order a PSA upper and lower for less than $600 with bbl made by FN, push 2 pins in and pull the trigger. FN needs to get on the clue train. The black gun ship has sailed. Pmags yesterday 5 for $50.

  15. “it also sports a chrome-lined, button-broached 1:7″ barrel instead of one of FNH’s legendary cold hammer-forged barrels.”

    So they didn’t include the one thing that would have made this worth getting over something like a Colt or BCM. I really can’t fault them for that though since the TDP calls for a button rifled barrel.

    “The FN-15 doesn’t share the M4′s full-auto bolt group”

    I can fault them for adding a commercial BCG instead of a FA carrier like their competitors do. I wonder what kind of buffer the carbine has.

  16. Ruined the gun with logo. Major fail. FN do your homework. Classic roll marks and mil-spec. is what most people want from the brand. Give them a range bag with your logo or a temporary tattoo for their arm. Your commercial graffiti means I’ll be passing and sure a lot of other folks.

  17. I laugh at guys who thinks a FA carrier are so much better than a semi carrier in a semi auto AR15!

    I have a Colt 6920 with FA carrier and a LMT with semi carrier and 3 Home builds using semi auto carriers from CMT,LMT,Bushmaster
    None have failed period. Is there any PROOF that a semi auto carrier will fail before a FA carrier no.
    As a Member of AR15 since 2000 I haven’t heard any reports what so ever about semi carriers failing.
    BTW my favorite carbine is my LMT Defender 2000 14.5 carbine and it sports a semi auto carrier,

  18. FN, some advice. Get rid of the hideous laser logo, get rid of the multi-caliber stamp, get a FA bolt carrier and you will have a contender. These guns collects dust on every gun store shelf with the same complaints. Shills writing articles about how great it is won’t solve the problem. I bought at COLT AR15A4 over yours and it is great.

  19. Some advice to FN. Lose the gawdy logo and multi-caliber stamping. You don’t know your customer. Your rifles are mocked and collect dust at gun shops. Shills writing articles won’t change the facts. Melt you ugly lowers down, put a roll mark on left side of mag weld, use a M16 BCG, put a CHF barrel 1/7 like military, use military standard carry handle – your rifle will fly off the shelves. The arrogance of the company to refuse to change anything – these guns will and have bombed in the marketplace.

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